Solar Goes Ivy League

The University of Utah has taken the term “ivy league” to another level with the purchase of specialty solar installation that attaches to the walls of buildings and resembles the vine that covers so many elite institutes of learning. 
New York sustainable design company, SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology), creators of Solar Ivy, say the plant-like solar power system is intended to integrate a renewable energy solution with the environment by mimicking organic life. The University hopes energy generated by the unique installation will offset energy usage on the proposed Orson Spencer Hall building.
By utilising advanced thin-film solar technology, the SMIT is able to produce flexible, leaf-shaped solar panels that are fixed onto a stainless steel mesh anchored to a wall or sunny rooftop. The panels can be coloured to match existing building facades. Electrical leads run from the mounting platform to an inverter or or regulator that charges a battery, exactly like a conventional solar energy system.
Three different thin-film panels, or leaves, are used in the Solar Ivy: organic PV, which is the cheapest per leaf, but also the least efficient, at 0.5 watts (W) of electricity per USD$20 leaf; amorphous silicon 0.6W per $24 leaf; and advanced copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) which produces 4W of electricity at a cost of $19 per leaf.
Tom Melburn, an environmental studies major from the University of Utah, received a grant for two-thirds of the $42,000 needed for the installation from University’s student-led Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. The remaining cash will come from students being encouraged join in the “buy a leaf” campaign to complete the project.
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